There are a variety of scams and frauds happening in Canada - with new ones invented daily. Learn how you can protect yourself from scammers and be scam smart.
IF SOMEONE IS ASKING YOU TO BUY GIFTCARDS, PROVIDE THEM WITH YOUR FINANCIAL INFORMATION (CREDIT CARDS, ACCOUNT NUMBERS, BLANK CHEQUES), ASKING FOR SOCIAL INSURANCE NUMBERS, DATE OF BIRTH, ADDRESS, NAMES, ETC IMMEDIATELY HANG UP.
You can call CRA, your local bank, Amazon, Canada Post, Immigration, Insurance, whatever it may be, directly and ask them! Always confirm. Never give out any personal and financial information over the phone, through email, letter, text, social media, or in person.
Types of scams and fraud
Phone call scams
People trying to steal your personal information will pretend to be Government of Canada employees or from other recognized agencies, organizations, or businesses. If someone calls you saying they are from the Government of Canada, there are ways you can verify it’s official government communication.
For example, if the caller is claiming to be from CRA, you can ask for the caller's name, work section, and office location and tell them that you want to first verify their identity.
Prepaid cards, bitcoin, e-transfers payments
The Government of Canada will not demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards.
In some cases, the Government of Canada will send you an email. For example, The Canada Revenue Agency may notify you by email when a new message or a document, such as a notice of assessment or reassessment, is available for you to view in secure CRA portals.
Email and text scams
Scammers will try to imitate the government or another agency and send fake emails requesting personal or financial information. These are called phishing emails. Make sure you delete phishing emails and do not click on any links; they can carry harmful viruses that can infect your computer.
Don't be afraid to say no
Don't be intimidated by high-pressure sales tactics. If a telemarketer tries to get you to buy something or to send them money right away:
- Request the information in writing
- Hang up
Watch out for urgent pleas that play on your emotions.
Do your research
Always verify that the organization you're dealing with is legitimate before you take any other action:
- Verify Canadian charities with the Canada Revenue Agency
- Verify collection agencies with the appropriate provincial agency
- Look online for contact information for the company that supposedly called you, and call them to confirm
- Verify any calls with your credit card company by calling the phone number on the back of your credit card
If you've received a call or other contact from a family member in trouble, talk to other family members to confirm the situation.
Watch out for fake or deceptive ads, or spoofed emails. Always verify the company and its services are real before you contact them.
Don't give out personal information
Beware of unsolicited calls where the caller asks you for personal information, such as:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your birthdate
- Your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- Your credit card or banking information
If you didn't initiate the call, you don't know who you're talking to.
Beware of upfront fees
Many scams request you to pay fees in advance of receiving goods, services, or a prize. It's illegal for a company to ask you to pay a fee upfront before they'll give you a loan.
There are no prize fees or taxes in Canada. If you won it, it's free.
Protect your computer
Watch out for urgent-looking messages that pop up while you're browsing online. Don't click on them or call the number they provide.
No legitimate company will call and claim your computer is infected with a virus.
Some websites, such as music, game, movie, and adult sites, may try to install viruses or malware without your knowledge. Watch out for emails with spelling and formatting errors, and be wary of clicking on any attachments or links. They may contain viruses or spyware.
Make sure you have anti-virus software installed and keep your operating system up to date.
Never give anyone remote access to your computer. If you are having problems with your system, bring it to a local technician.
Be careful who you share images with
Carefully consider who you're sharing explicit videos and photographs with. Don't perform any explicit acts online. Some scammers will pretend to have a relationship with you and when you send explicit images to them they will then demand money and threaten they will send the images out to your friends and family. Hackers can get remote access and record you.
Protect your online accounts
By taking the following steps, you can better protect your online accounts from fraud and data breaches:
- Create a strong password by:
- Using a minimum of 8 characters including upper and lower case letters, and at least 1 number and a symbol
- Creating unique passwords for every online account including social networks, emails, financial and other accounts
- Using a combination of passphrases that are easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess
- Enable multi-factor authentication
- Only log into your accounts from trusted sources
- Don't reveal personal information over social media
Spoofing is used by fraudsters to mislead victims and convince them that they are communicating with legitimate people, companies, or organizations. Here are the main types of spoofing used by fraudsters:
- Caller ID spoofing
- Fraudsters have the ability to manipulate the phone number appearing on call display either by call or text message. Fraudsters can display legitimate phone numbers for law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, government agencies or service providers.
- Email spoofing
- Similar to Caller ID spoofing, fraudsters can manipulate the sender's email address in order to make you believe that the email you're receiving is from a legitimate source.
- Website spoofing
- Fraudsters will create fraudulent websites that look legitimate. The fake websites can pretend to be a financial institution, company offering employment, investment company or government agency. In many cases, fraudsters will use a similar domain/website URL to the legitimate company or organization with a minor spelling difference.
Protect yourself from spoofing by
- Never assuming that phone numbers appearing on your call display are accurate
- Hang up and make the outgoing call when someone claims to be contacting you from your financial institution, service provider, law enforcement or government agency
- Call the company or agency in question directly, if you receive a text message or email. Make sure you research their contact information and don't use the information provided in the first message
- Never clicking on links received via text message or email
- When visiting a website, always verify the URL and domain to make sure you are on the official website
Know who you're dealing with
Watch out for invoices using the name of legitimate companies. Scammers will use real company names like Yellow Pages to make the invoices seem authentic. Make sure you inspect invoices thoroughly before you make a payment.
Compile a list of companies your business uses to help employees know which contacts are real and which aren't.
Don't give out information on unsolicited calls
Educate employees at every level to be wary of unsolicited calls. If they didn't initiate the call, they shouldn't provide or confirm any information, including:
- The business's address
- The business's phone number
- Any account numbers
- Any information about equipment in the office (e.g., make and model of the printer, etc.)
Limit your employees' authority
Only allow a small number of staff to approve purchases and pay bills.
Watch for anomalies
- Larger than normal orders
- Multiple orders for the same product
- Orders made up of "big-ticket" items
These orders may be fraudulent.
If you become a victim of fraud
- Contact your financial institution and any other companies where your account has been compromised
- Contact Canada’s two credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report file to tell lenders to contact you and confirm your identity before they approve any applications for credit
- File a report with your local police
- Notify the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Protect yourself from future fraud
Scammers often target victims of fraud a second or third time with the promise of recovering money. Always do your due diligence and never send recovery money.
Share any updates with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, your financial institutions and police.
Tell family, friends, neighbors and co-workers about your experience. You may prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
Government of Canada (2022) Scams and fraud.